Otso Diretso urges Ombudsman to probe Michael Yang 'drug links'
CEBU, Philippines – Otso Diretso senatorial candidates called on the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the alleged drug links of presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, a Chinese national.
In a chance interview in Carcar City on Tuesday, March 26, former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada said the Ombudsman may conduct a motu proprio investigation – or a probe initiated by the office itself – on the claims of disgruntled veteran anti-drug operative Eduardo Acierto against Yang.
"This is a challenge now to the Ombudsman dahil importanteng-importante na mayroong mga government officials involved. Sabihin po natin na immune from suit ang ating Pangulo. Pero mayroong mga government officials [na involved]. Bakit 'di inaksyunan ng PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency)? Bakit hindi inaksyunan ng iba't ibang mga opisyal?" said Tañada.
(This is a challenge now to the Ombudsman because this is very important, since government officials are involved. Let's say the President is immune from suit. But there are government officials involved. Why didn't the PDEA take action? Why didn't other officials do something?)
"This is a challenge to the Ombudsman: Do your homework. These people are not immune from suit. You can investigate them and file the appropriate charges if warranted," he added.
Acierto, former deputy director for administration of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Drug Enforcement Group, publicized 2017 documents detailing the supposed links of Yang and another Chinese national, Allan Lim, to illegal drugs.
He submitted these documents to his superiors in the PNP and to the PDEA. But Acierto said his group's intel on Yang might have caught the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, who then accused him of involvement in the P11 billion worth of illegal drugs smuggled through magnetic lifters in 2018.
Acierto has gone into hiding since he was implicated in shabu smuggling, and only resurfaced to tell select reporters about Yang's alleged drug links on Sunday, March 24.
Malacañang remains unconvinced that Yang is involved in the drug trade, with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo saying that more proof is needed.
But Otso Diretso candidate and ex-solicitor general Florin Hilbay said Malacañang should allow an independent probe into the matter. Otherwise, the credibility of the administration and Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaign – which has killed thousands – are at stake.
"Si Mayor Duterte became President because of a single issue: the promise to end the war on drugs. The President himself has admitted the drug problem has gotten worse. And so the allegations and 'yung revelations ni Mr Acierto put a potential dagger into the credibility of the war on drugs dahil binigyan pala sila ng impormasyon [pero] parang tahimik pala sila," said Hilbay.
(Then-mayor Duterte became President because of a single issue: the promise to end the war on drugs. The President himself had admitted the drug problem has gotten worse. And so the allegations and revelations of Mr Acierto put a potential dagger into the credibility of the war on drugs, because they were given information yet they apparently remained silent about it.)
Veteran election lawyer Romy Macalintal also wondered why the administration remained silent when one of their own was already being linked to illegal drugs.
"Ito'y isang malaking hamon sa Malacañang, sa present leadership. Bakit 'yung narco list, ang dali-dali nilang inilalabas? Bakit ito ngayon, hindi tayo magkaroon ng proper investigation?" asked the senatorial candidate.
(This is a big challege to Malacañang, to the present leadership. How come the narco list was so easy for them to release? Why isn't there a proper investigation now?)
Peace and women's rights advocate Samira Gutoc likewise urged Malacañang to go after the big fish behind the illegal drug trade.
"Dito kami sa Cebu, sa isang barangay mismo na biktima ng EJK (extrajudicial killings), from [Oplan] Tokhang, and they feel the pain. You stop the killing of people sa drug war 'nyo. Start with killing from within your own departments, with your own government, 'yung mga kuwestiyonable, 'yung mga taong puwedeng involved. You should internally cleanse yourselves," said Gutoc.
(We're here in Cebu, in a barangay whose residents became victims of extrajudicial killings, and they feel the pain. You stop the killing of people in your drug war. Start with killing from within your own departments, with your own government, the questionable people who may be involved. You should internally cleanse yourselves.)
The Duterte government confirms there have been 5,050 deaths from the police's anti-drug operations.
But human rights groups peg the total death toll at 20,000 if killings by unidentified assailants or vigilantes are included. – Rappler.com